Paul is a full-time fifth-grade teacher at an elementary school in Fairfield ... Paul is a New York Emmy award winner (2007), five-time Emmy nominee, and four-time winner of the Connecticut Associated Press Broadcasters' Association award for 'Best Weathercast' in Connecticut (2006, 2008, 2009, 2012) ... The local weather journal is a two-time winner of the Communicator Award of Distinction (2012 & 2013) ... Paul was inducted into the Housatonic Community College Hall of Fame and received the Distinguished Alumni Award (2012) ... Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulPiorek ...

Friday, May 30, 2014

June Preview

June will open with beautiful weather Sunday under mostly sunny skies, seasonable temperatures, and a light breeze. Expect a daytime high of 72 degrees, which is just about normal for this time of the year. In fact, the mercury will rebound close to 80 degrees Monday before more showers arrive by the middle of next week.

So, what can we expect for June? As far as our local weather is concerned, the average high temperature for southwestern Connecticut jumps to 80 degrees by the end of the month, a leap of seven degrees from June 1. The all-time record high for the month is 97 degrees, which was established during the record-breaking heat wave on June 9, 2008.

That unusual late-Spring heat wave six years ago forced early dismissals and closings at area schools. The unseasonably warm air arrived Sunday, June 8, when the mercury reached 90 degrees. The next two days featured daytime high temperatures of 97 and 96 degrees, respectively, capping a most unusually hot stretch of weather for early June.

The mercury also reached 96 degrees two other times (June 19, 1994, and June 26, 1949). Record high temperatures of 95 degrees have been set three times, including back-to-back days of June 16 and 17 of 1957. The warmest June on record happened in 1994 when the average temperature for the month was 71.7 degrees, well above the 68.0 degree normal.

On the flip side, early June can still be gray, damp, and cool. Although the temperature has never fallen below 40 degrees for the month, the record lows for the first half of June are consistently in the lower 40s. The chilliest morning was 41 degrees on June 1, 1967. The “coldest” June on record happened in 1982 when the average temperature was 63.8 degrees, over four degrees colder than normal!

The wettest June on record happened 42 years ago in 1972 when nearly a foot-and-a-half of rain fell (17.7″). That’s well above the 3.57″ norm based on climatology. Unbelievably, there was nearly a completely dry June in 1949 when only 0.07″ of rain was recorded. The most rain recorded in one day happened on June 19, 1972 when 6.18″ fell. Nearly five inches (4.79″) fell on June 5, 1982.

The length of daylight continues to grow during the month. In fact, by the start of June the sky begins to brighten in the East a little before 4 o’clock in the morning. I can actually hear a few birds chirping when I arrive at the News 12 Connecticut studios shortly after three o’clock in the morning. June features the “longest days” of the year, and by the end of the month the Sun sets at 8:30, the latest ever in southwestern Connecticut. The earliest Sunrise happens at 5:18 from June 13 through June 16.

June features the Full Strawberry Moon. It will be full Friday, June 13th at 12:11 a.m. This name was was universal to every Algonquin tribe. However, in Europe they called it the Rose Moon. The relatively short season for harvesting strawberries comes each year during the month of June, so the Full Moon that occurs during that month was christened for the strawberry!

Happy June.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sunrise at Calf Pasture Beach

Morning news anchor Amelie Wilson is on special assignment this morning. She took this photo at sunrise along Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk. It's crystal clear and chilly with temperatures in the 40s. 

Today will be mostly sunny and pleasant today with a high temperature of 65 degrees. That's warmer than yesterday's high of 59, but much cooler than Tuesday's record high of 87. The normal high for this date is 71.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

NOAA Predicts Below-Normal Hurricane Season This Year

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a near-normal or below-normal 2014 Atlantic hurricane season. The main driver of this year’s outlook is the anticipated development of El Niño this summer.

El Niño causes stronger wind shear, which reduces the number and intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes. El Niño can also strengthen the trade winds and increase the atmospheric stability across the tropical Atlantic, making it more difficult for cloud systems coming from Africa to intensify into tropical storms.

The outlook calls for a 50 percent chance of a below-normal season, a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 10 percent chance of an above-normal season. For the six-month hurricane season, which begins June 1, NOAA predicts a 70 percent likelihood of 8 to 13 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 3 to 6 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 1 to 2 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).

These numbers are near or below the seasonal averages of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes, based on the average from 1981 to 2010. The Atlantic hurricane region includes the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.

“Thanks to the environmental intelligence from NOAA’s network of earth observations, our scientists and meteorologists can provide life-saving products like our new storm surge threat map and our hurricane forecasts,” said Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., NOAA administrator. “And even though we expect El Niño to suppress the number of storms this season, it’s important to remember it takes only one land falling storm to cause a disaster.”

Humberto was the first of only two Atlantic hurricanes in 2013. It reached peak intensity, with top winds of 90 mph, in the far eastern Atlantic.

Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said the Atlantic – which has seen above-normal seasons in 12 of the last 20 years – has been in an era of high activity for hurricanes since 1995. However, this high-activity pattern is expected to be offset in 2014 by the impacts of El Niño, and by cooler Atlantic Ocean temperatures than we’ve seen in recent years.

“Atmospheric and oceanic conditions across the tropical Pacific are already taking on some El Niño characteristics. Also, we are currently seeing strong trade winds and wind shear over the tropical Atlantic, and NOAA’s climate models predict these conditions will persist, in part because of El Niño,” Bell said. “The expectation of near-average Atlantic Ocean temperatures this season, rather than the above-average temperatures seen since 1995, also suggests fewer Atlantic hurricanes.”

NOAA is rolling out new tools at the National Hurricane Center this year. An experimental mapping tool will be used to show communities their storm surge flood threat. The map will be issued for coastal areas when a hurricane or tropical storm watch is first issued, or approximately 48 hours before the anticipated onset of tropical storm force winds. The map will show land areas where storm surge could occur and how high above ground the water could reach in those areas.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Villa Maria's School's Students Perform Weather Concert

I visited with the students at Villa Maria School in Stamford this morning. The students staged a weather concert, which included a Beatles backdrop and a popular Beatles song previewing the holiday weekend forecast. They were great!


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Today Marks 18th Anniversary of Warmest May Day on Record

Today marks the 18th anniversary of the warmest May day on record. The mercury soared to 97 degrees at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford on Monday, May 20, 1996, nearly 30 degrees higher than the average high temperature for the date. In fact, only one other Spring day has been as warm, and that happened on June 9 of 2008. What made the record high of 1996 so memorable was that it happened just 40 days after nearly a foot of snow capped the snowiest Winter on record, and just days after much colder-than-normal temperatures.

“Just over a week ago, the climate got rewound to Winter,” wrote N. R. Kleinfield of The New York Times in an article dated May 21, 1996. “Six inches of snow coated parts of upstate New York (as if the year required more snow). In the city last week, the high temperature dipped to the 50s. Spring, you might have noticed, either got lost or just forgot to come. Then came yesterday (May 20, 1996). It all got fast-forwarded to August. Bathing suits instead of ski parkas,” he continued.

“Turn off the heater and turn up the air-conditioner. What’s going on? Is this Earth or is this Mars? People could be excused for being mystified, discombobulated, distraught, furious, dazed, crazed, tentative, dizzy and, of course, just plain really, really hot.” The temperature reached a record high of 96 degrees in Central Park, eclipsing the previous record of 91 set in 1959, and a new record was established in Newark, where it was 99 degrees. Incredibly, just over a week earlier, on the weekend of May 11 and 12, 1996, it snowed in upstate New York.

Remember, the first two-and-a-half weeks of May in 1996 were unseasonably chilly. The record heat and outages at two power plants, one in Westchester and one in upstate New York, reduced the electricity reserves of New York state’s power pool, leading Consolidated Edison to ask customers to curtail electricity consumption. With air-conditioners thrumming away, demand in New York City reached around 9,000 megawatts, well above the normal 7,000 to 8,000 megawatts for this time of year.

Twelve years later, a late Spring scorcher, which included another 97-degree Spring day, forced area schools to dismiss early and close in early June of 2008. Temperatures soared to 90 degrees or hotter on Sunday, June 8 (90 degrees), Monday, June 9 (97), and Tuesday, June 10 (96). The normal high temperature for the first week of June is 74 degrees. It’s the first time in recent memory that school systems shut down due to the oppressive heat.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Chirping Birds Greet Early-Morning Risers

Do you hear the birds chirping in the middle of the night? I do. The birds began chirping shortly after 3 o'clock this morning. Yes, it happens every May. As soon as I leave my house and walk to the car, I hear them. And, because the sound is so foreign at that hour, I always pause to listen a little more carefully. Yes, the birds are chirping their melodious songs in the middle of the night. Although sunrise is a few hours away, the birds are already in midday form.

Waking up at 2:30 and arriving at work in the middle of the night is a surreal experience, to be sure, but hearing the birds chirping loudly at that hour is nothing short of shocking. Obviously, the days are getting longer, but is that the only reason the birds are up so early in the morning this time of the year? My curiosity got the better of me. I just had to find out.

No doubt you’ve heard the old adage about the early bird catching the worm, but there had to be more to it than that. Our morning director was also curious as to why she heard the birds on her way to work, too. So, she consulted Yahoo Answers for a possible explanation. “The birds chirp and sing to communicate,” it states. “What you may not know is that, with few exceptions, it is the males that are doing all the chirping and singing. They chirp and sing to attract a mate and to announce their territory.”

But why are they chirping in the middle of the night? “Each day, as soon as possible, the males want to make sure that everyone knows that they are alive and well and ready to defend their territory. What is interesting, although it may all sound the same to us, is that there is some evidence suggesting that each bird has its own unique song and other birds know it.”

As for the modern scientific viewpoint, it is devoid of any romantic, religious or aesthetic aspects. It states that the pre-dawn chorus this time of the year signifies the warning signals given by each bird as it announces the re-establishment of its territory for the purpose of courtship, nesting, and food getting. All of these are the fundamental and basic steps to breeding, and the early chorus is just a way to warn other counterparts to keep away from their respective territories.

Now when I hear the birds chirping in the middle of the night, at least I’ll know why. Our weather won't be worth chirping about over the next few days. Tomorrow will be cloudy, milder, and more humid with a few showers. Steadier and heavier rain is expected later Friday into Friday night. However, the rain will taper early Saturday, and the weekend looks generally fair and seasonable.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Full Flower Moon Happens Tomorrow Afternoon

Full20moonThe Full Flower Moon takes place Wednesday afternoon at 3:16 EDT. Skies were clear to partly cloudy last night, so you may have noticed the light of the nearly-full Moon filtering through the window. We won't be as fortunate tonight under mostly cloudy skies, but no steady rain is expected until the end of the week.

In most areas, flowers are abundant everywhere during this time. That’s how the Full Moon in May became known as the Flower Moon. Other names include the Corn Planting Moon or the Milk Moon. Full Moon names date back to Native Americans in what is now the Northern and Eastern United States. The tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring Full Moon. Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred.

A Full Moon rises at about the same time the Sun is setting. Since the length of daylight continues to grow each day through the Summer Solstice, a Full Moon will rise later and set earlier in May and June. In addition, the Full Moon will appear lower in the sky since it won’t be visible nearly as long as during the long Winter nights. That’s because the Full Moon is a lunar phase which occurs when the Moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun.


Friday, May 9, 2014

Rare May Snowstorm Clobbered New England on This Date in 1977

A storm system brought snow and record-cold temperatures to much of New England, Monday, May 9, 1977. In fact, at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford, a trace of snow fell, and the temperature dropped to 37 degrees that morning, establishing a record low for this date. Other than a trace of snow which was reported May 27, 2010, it's the latest Spring day on which any snow has ever fallen in southwestern Connecticut.

The storm was quite shocking for this time of the year. Consider the normal high temperature for May 9 is 65 degrees, and the normal low temperature is 48. Snow in southwestern Connecticut is almost unheard of seven weeks after the Vernal Equinox. The coldest temperature ever recorded this month was 31 degrees on March 10, 1966.

According to the Naugatuck Daily News, "A Spring storm dumped several inches of snow on some parts of Berkshire County in Massachusetts. The area hardest hit by the storm was Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where police reported 10 inches of snow on the ground. Similar amounts were reported in parts of Vermont. Great Barrington police said there 'were about 100 trees down, wires are down, and we've got reports of accidents we can't get to.'"

Residents in the northwestern Connecticut rural communities of Goshen and Cornwall reported unofficial snow depths of up to five inches. The snow began to fall heavily in the Hartford area at the height of the commuter rush, slowing traffic considerably on most roads. The National Weather Service said a deepening area of low pressure over Connecticut produced a variety of weather conditions across Western Connecticut.

I consider myself a local weather history buff, but I honestly don't remember this storm. Special thanks to viewer Ralph Fato for recalling it and bringing it to my attention. It certainly had to be memorable for those who had to dig out of nearly a half-foot of snow in the northwestern corner of the state. I'm sure they were wearing their Winter coats, too, with the mercury plunging into the 30s.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Our Lady Star of the Sea School's Second & Fifth Graders Shine as Weatherkids

I visited with the second- and fifth-graders at Our Lady Star of the Sea School in Stamford, Wednesday morning, May 7, 2014.


Monday, May 5, 2014

Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week

Each week when I visit a different school across southwestern Connecticut, I'm always impressed with the commitment and dedication of our teachers to their craft and their students. Clearly, they have a passion for what they do, and it shows through their creativity and energy. Almost always they are smiling, and they love their profession.

The demands and challenges teachers face today are much different than when I left the classroom nearly 20 years ago. I taught from 1985 to 1995, long before the widespread use of modern-day technology, which has become an integral part of the educational experience. Educators are constantly improving their curricula, and many attend classes and seminars during the Summer months to learn new methods of instruction and classroom management.

Tomorrow is National Teacher Appreciation Day, and this week is National Teacher Appreciation Week. According to the teacher appreciation Web site, "Teaching is possibly one of the most vocational jobs. It is simply impossible to teach if you don’t like that activity, or if you don’t care for your students. Care, that’s the word. But, how often do we, the rest of us, care for our current or former teachers? How often do we show our teacher appreciation? How often do we thank them for their care, efforts and help?

A teacher’s highest reward is feeling the true appreciation and gratitude of his or her current or former students. I know, because I've received letters and phone calls from former students of mine. I can't tell you how rewarding it is to hear from a student I taught 25 years ago telling me how much he learned and how much he enjoyed my classes. I still enjoy teaching today. Here are some photos from recent visits to area schools. Yes, teaching is still very much in my blood, and I love working with children.

If you have children in the school system, I'm sure you're grateful for the work of our teachers. Even if you don't have any school-aged children, I'm sure you're aware of the work of our dedicated educators. They deserve our support, and I applaud them. I'll be sure to thank both of my sons' teachers this week.

Thank you, teachers.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Heavy Rain Causes Flooded Basements

Many homes across southwestern Connecticut have flood damage after 30 hours of heavy rain Wednesday. Crews from Servpro in Stamford say their phones have been ringing non-stop with requests to pump flood water out of homes. They say the damage is primarily from water seepage in low-lying areas.

Crews say they saw a lot of sump pump failures because the pumps can't keep up with the amount of water getting into the basement. Officially, five inches of rain fell at Sikorsky Memorial Airport from Wednesday through Thursday morning. In fact, two-and-a-half inches fell Wednesday and just about one-and-a-half inches soaked the region yesterday, record amounts for each date.

My basement was flooded when I got home from work yesterday, and both sump pumps have been working overtime. They are reliable. However, even with both sump pumps working continuously, there is still plenty of water in the basement.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Annual Dogwood Festival Takes Place This Weekend

The weekend gets off to an early start tomorrow as the 79th annual Dogwood Festival begins high atop Greenfield Hill in Fairfield. The event, which is traditionally held on Mother's Day weekend, draws people from all over the Northeast. From its humble beginnings on a card table that displayed handmade aprons and similar items three-quarters of a century ago, the Festival has grown into an event which attracts thousands each year.

Every year, the festival offers an opportunity for all to share the beauty of the historic hill. I've been at Greenfield Hill to provide LIVE weather reports a number of times to promote the Dogwood Festival, and it seems that rain has always been in the forecast just about every year. This year, Mother Nature is delivering a fairly quiet weekend. Sunshine will mix with clouds tomorrow and Sunday, with a slight threat of a shower or two each afternoon, especially Sunday.

Have a good weekend.